Friday, July 13, 2007

Bad things come in....threes?

6 Years ago I broke my ankle playing soccer - 1 week before a trip to Florida. Running through Toronto International airport on crutches with mucho baggage was a bit of a pain in the ass.

So now, 5-ish weeks before I head off to Korea, I break my ankle in the same spot, just by stepping on an uneven piece of grass or dirt on one of the many shabby fields we get to play on with the Calgary United Soccer Association. I wish I could say that it was a vicious tackle, but no - it was bad balance more than anything else.

For those that are curious, a ligament that attaches a leg bone to a foot bone (that's as technical as I get) snapped, pulling a chunk of bone off of my foot bone. So, the effect is that this ligament is floating around somewhere in my swollen ankle like a baited hook, looking for a place to re-attach. Let's hope it finds the right spot, I guess. When it happened it sounded like a Christmas cracker. Only there wasn't a cool toy for me to play with, or a bad joke for me to read aloud.

Just to add insult to injury, one day later I come down with a feverish cold that hits me like a truck. After a visit to the clinic today, I discover that I likely have strep throat and am on antibiotics for 10 days.

So, aircast for three weeks at such a time I will be re x-rayed. Hopefully it heals better than last time (it took me a year and a half before I could play soccer again). I guess it's time to invest in a proper ankle brace once more.

Thank God for families that live close by where I can get a good home-cooked meal and some pampering - including a little bit of baby therapy watching my little nephews play in the pool. And thank God for my lady who will make me soup and take care of me while I roll around like an infant, whining and bawling :)

In Korea news, Steph and I have recieved our Visa Issuance numbers from our employer in Suwon and the next step is to send some goodies to the Korean Consulate in Vancouver. They will then send us our passport back, stamped with our Korean Visa. We then have to wait for our actual ticket to Korea and we'll be good to go. I wish I had access to some ancient Korean healing herbs.

Monday, July 9, 2007

"Leaving on a Jet Plane..."

...well, actually two jet planes. Looks like we'll be taking off from Calgary in the wee hours of August 22nd and we'll have a stop-over in L.A. before heading off to the Incheon International Airport. We're looking at a 3 hour trip to L.A. - and a 12 hour flight to Korea from there.

I know that I will have a few things to keep me entertained during the long trip across the Pacific: my ipod, my Nintendo DS, books, magazines, listening to in-flight Korean, checking out the latest Korean film on-board, using my super-vision to spot dolphins in the waves below - perhaps even a Gatto-Squalo - you never know.

But I am wondering what to do with our time in L.A. ... you see, I have had this recurring dream for a long time. No - it's not about sleeping with some hot celebrity babe, though I have had a few of those too (dreams, that is - not actual celebrity babes). My recurring dream involves me and a friend (a faceless friend) and we are in Disneyland with only an hour to spend. I of course want to take my time in the happiest place on earth, but that is unfortunately not an option for me. So instead, my dream consists of running around with this friend and trying to see the major spots: Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Pirates, the Haunted Mansion - you know, the whole nine. But everywhere we go is closed or the line is too long. It's a mix of pure pleasure (suddenly being in Disneyland) and pur terror (having to leave soon). Yes, I know - it's kind of sad that this is my dream.


Anyway, I actually let it enter my head today: we have three hours to kill - let's crash Disneyland for 1 hour, ride Splash Mountain and race back to the airport! Yeah, I know - it's completely a waste of money and totally unrealistic - but there it is. Still - would'nt it be a blast?

What's much more likely to happen is we will drag our sorry sleep-deprived asses off the plane at L.A.X. and wander around looking at all the M16-carrying security guards for a couple of hours before boarding again. That's okay - I just want to see a palm tree - just for poops and ha-has.

In other news: here's a photo of the Calgary Stampede Showband on the steps of the Saddledome in Stampede Park yesterday. I guess it's the last time I'll hear a big band play "Call Me Al" for a couple of years. I haven't been a huge fan of the Stampede for some time, but I can summmon-up a tinge of nostalgia for even "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth" when I am in the act of saying goodbye to it for a while. I wonder what Korean marching bands play - is there such a thing?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Leaving in 52 days... give or take a day...

With life in Calgary keeping us just as busy as we thought it would, it's taken me some time to update this here blog with the good news. Steph and I have been offered positions at the same school beginning August 30th! We will be living in Suwon, which is a city of approximately 1 million people, so - roughly the size of Calgary, I suppose. The only thing is, Suwon is very close to Seoul (approximately 40 minutes by transit), which means that we'll be neighbours with a city that currently houses 10.3 million people, which is more than 2 million people greater than the population of New York City. That's something I have a great deal of difficulty fathoming right now, but there it is - and here is Suwon, just so you can see how close it is to the big ol' metropolis...

This makes us happy, because according to this map, we will be living extremely close to our friends Ian and Bonnie who live in neighbouring Gunpo City. Seems like we'll be spitting distance from each other. Look out, Ian - 'cause I'm working on a big loogie just for you...

I am getting the impression that living in Suwon is akin to living in a place like Oakville - very close to a major centre, but still a major centre in comparison to most urban settings. It seems that surrounding Seoul is one huge developed urban landscape. My hope is that green space is a major priority in Korean culture and urban planning :)
Looking online, it seems that by far the biggest historical cultural attraction in Suwon is Hwaseong Fortress. According to Wikipedia, the fortress was "built from 1794 to 1796. King Jeongjo constructed the fortress complex to honor and house the remains of his father Prince Sado who was forced to commit suicide by being shut in a rice chest by King Yeongjo." That sounds pretty severe. But it looks like a very cool place to walk around and I'm sure we'll be checking it out shortly after our arrival. But you don't have to wait, of course - you can check it out right now...

The whole thing is supposed to be rather huge and I'm sure it will make for a few introspective days roaming about our new city.
We are very happy to finally have a start date - now all that remains is our departure date. For those of you that are in the process or thinking about applying to teach ESL in Korea, I am realizing that applying at least a couple of months in advance of when you'd like to go is a very good idea. Most schools have their own way of doing things and if you want to be very specific, you can read about procedures on another site. For us, it's been kind of a fast, but then slow process. What the hell am I talking about? Well, we applied to a couple of well-researched and well-established schools on June 16th. The next day we heard back from both and though they both seemed very desirable for various reasons, only one was able to offer two positions at the same school with a start date that appealed to us.
After arranging a phone interview, we sat and waited for the day when we each recieved a call from our potential employer and we were relieved to know that everything went very well. We spoke with a lady from human resources for over an hour and had a very fun and professional interview with a chance to ask and answer many questions on both sides. Afterwards, we both felt that we had made the right choice and hopefully, that we would receive an offer soon.
The offer did come a couple of days later for our positions at the school's Suwon location. We were each sent a contract to look over as well as contact information for one of the teachers currently working there. We were also given 48 hours to reply regarding our intentions with the contract. We promptly asked for more time as well as for two more teacher contacts so that we could get a balanced opinion. Our TESOL course recommended speaking with at least two current teachers who can answer any questions and give you the lowdown on what to expect and what things are really like there.
We were happy to exchange a few emails with each of them and were happy to hear that the most responsive one is actually going to be staying on for a contract extension - that bodes well :)
We then let the school know that we would be accepting the contracts and now begins the hurry-up and wait bit. It involves a few things - mainly reading a lot, UPSing documents to our employer, getting info back from them, sending goodies to the Korean consulate in Vancouver, getting goodies back, and then getting our tickets sent to us. We are looking at a departure date of around the 22nd of August and we have been told that the rest of our paperwork, if completed in a timely fashion, will take about 4 weeks. Whew! I guess we made it just under the wire.
So, now begins an interesting summer of anticipation and hopefully some relaxation. When you look at your calendar and realize that the majority of it is filled with work, you start to wonder how you're going to get it all done in the time you have left. In some ways, it's good to have a date so that you can know how much you can actually do within that time frame. In other ways, I kind of wish that I was leaving tomorrow so that there wouldn't be enough time for sentimentality and sad goodbyes - to which I would be the biggest contributor, I'm sure :)
I look forward to getting the ticket and having a for sure date. from there we build back, and for me - I know I'm going to work really hard to find some way to see my little nephews as much as humanly possible within the next two months. Time to buy an isight, and time to take a peak at Seoul...